Title:
Balance beam spotting apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A portable apparatus is provided for “spotting” a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam. The balance beam spotting apparatus comprises a rigid frame having a lower frame portion adapted to be supported upon the floor, a correspondingly sized and configured upper frame portion supported above and parallel to the lower frame portion by legs attached at either end to corresponding comers of the lower and upper frame portions and a support assembly operable within the frame. The length of each frame portion is slightly longer than the length of a standard balance beam such that the frame may be positioned around a balance beam. The support assembly includes cables that extend from the top of one leg to the top of the other leg on each side of the frame. Means are provided for tensioning the cables to maintain an appropriate tension in each cable. A pulley operates on each cable along the length of the cable. A spotting strap is suspended by one end from each of the pulleys. The other end of each spotting strap is attached to a swivel on either side of the spotting belt worn by the gymnast. The length of the spotting straps is adjustable to accommodate the height of the gymnast. The swivel permits the gymnast to perform flips and other movements while using the spotting belt without binding or twisting the spotting straps. In use, the balance beam is placed within the frame such that the balance beam extends centrally along the length of the frame, beneath and parallel to the tensioning cables. Thus, the gymnast is able to move along the length of the balance beam while practicing routines and to practice skills without the physical assistance of a spotter or coach.



Inventors:
Lettelleir, Martin A. (Rochester, MN, US)
Application Number:
11/137092
Publication Date:
11/30/2006
Filing Date:
05/26/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B26/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MATHEW, FENN C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DUNLAP & SEEGER (Rochester, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam, comprising: (a) a portable frame have a lower frame portion and an upper frame portion supported above said lower frame portion by a plurality of legs, said upper frame portion having spaced, parallel frame members; (b) a pair of spaced, parallel support members each attached at each end to one of said legs such that one of said pair of support members extends beneath and parallel to each of said frame members; (c) a pair of followers, each of said followers riding upon and supported by one of said support members; and (d) a pair of suspension members having a first end and a second end, said first end of each of said suspension member being attached to one of said followers and said second end of each of said suspension members being releasably attachable to a spotting belt worn by the gymnast.

2. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam according to claim 1, wherein said support members comprise cables and means for tensioning said cables.

3. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam according to claim 2, wherein said means for tensioning said cables each comprise a turnbuckle and a load binder.

4. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam according to claim 1, wherein each of said support members are adjustably positionable with respect to one of said frame members.

5. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam according to claim 1, wherein said followers comprise pulleys.

6. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam according to claim 1, wherein said suspension members comprise straps.

7. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam, comprising: (a) a portable, rigid frame have a lower frame portion and an upper frame portion supported above said lower frame portion by a plurality of legs, said upper frame portion having spaced, parallel frame members; (b) a pair of spaced, parallel cables each attached at each end to one of said legs such that one of said pair of cables extends beneath and parallel to each of said frame members, each of said cables having means for tensioning said cable; (c) a pair of pulleys, each of said pulleys riding upon and supported by one of said cables; and (d) a pair of spotting straps having a first end and a second end, said first end of each of said spotting straps being releasably attached to one of said pulleys by a first releasable swivel link and said second end of each of said spotting straps being releasably attachable to a spotting belt worn by the gymnast by a second releasable swivel link.

8. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam according to claim 7, wherein said means for tensioning said cable comprise a turnbuckle and a load binder.

9. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam according to claim 7, wherein each of said cables are attached at each end to a collar riding on and slidably positionable to one of said legs, said collars being positionable with respect to one of said legs by means of a clevis pin inserted through aligned holes in each of said collars and legs.

10. An apparatus for spotting a gymnast while performing routines on a balance beam, comprising: (a) a portable, rigid frame have a lower frame portion and an upper frame portion supported above said lower frame portion by a plurality of legs, said upper frame portion having spaced, parallel frame members; (b) a pair of spaced, parallel cables each attached at each end to one of said legs by means of a collar riding on and adjustably positionable with respect to said legs, each of said cables having a turnbuckle and a load binder to adjust the tension within each of said cables; (c) a pair of pulleys, each of said pulleys riding upon and supported by one of said cables; and (d) a pair of spotting straps having a first end and a second end, said first end of each of said spotting straps being releasably attached to one of said pulleys by a first releasable swivel link and said second end of each of said spotting straps being releasably attachable to a spotting belt worn by the gymnast by a second swivel link.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a portable apparatus for spotting gymnasts practicing routines on a balance beam.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One of the events common to gymnastics competition is the balance beam. The balance beam comprises an elongate beam approximately 4 inches wide positioned approximately 4 feet above and parallel to the floor upon which the gymnast performs gymnastic routines. The balance beam routines generally include jumps and front and back flips. These routines require great skill on the part of the gymnast to land and balance on the narrow beam. The gymnast moves along the length of the beam while performing such routines.

In competition, such routines are performed without a net or other safety means to prevent the gymnast from falling to the floor if she should fall off the beam. While practicing such routines, however, it is common practice to “spot” the gymnast. Spotting generally involves one person standing adjacent to the beam on either side of the beam while the gymnast practices routines to catch the gymnast in the event that she should fall from the beam. This requires the presence of spotters while the gymnast practices. Such spotters are generally coaches or other gymnasts and spotting takes them from other activities that they might be engaged in otherwise.

It has been known to provide spotting apparatuses to assist the gymnast in the practice of routines on the balance beam. Such apparatuses are one of two types. The first type, which is commonly referred to as an overhead spotting rig, comprises an I-beam attached to the ceiling of the gym. A spotting belt is suspended from the I-beam by means of a pair of pulleys suspended from the I-beam and a pair of ropes attached to the spotting belt and operating over the pulleys. The balance beam is positioned beneath the I-beam such that the spotting belt is suspended above the balance beam. The spotting belt is attached to the waist of the gymnast. Once the spotting belt is in place on the gymnast, she can practice routines such as flips without the assistance of any spotters. Should the gymnast fall from the beam she will be prevented from falling to the floor. The drawback with this type of apparatus is that it does not permit the gymnast to travel along the length of the balance beam since the I-beam is stationary.

The second type of known spotting apparatus comprises a pair of parallel, spaced rods or cables clamped to I-beams incorporated in the ceiling of a gym. A similar arrangement of pulleys, rope and belt is provided as in the first apparatus, except that the pulleys are suspended from other pulleys riding along the spaced rods or cables. This permits the gymnast to travel along the length of the balance beam to the extent that the other pulleys can travel along the rods or cables. While an improvement on the first type of apparatus, this type of spotting apparatus is limited in that it is fixed to the roof of a gym and can only be used where it is so fixed.

In either of the two known apparatuses, it is necessary that a coach or other person hold the ropes while the gymnast practices. This is a drawback since at least one additional person is required to assist the gymnast while using these apparatuses.

It is one object of the present invention to provide a beam spotting apparatus which can be used by the gymnast without the assistance of another person.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a beam spotting apparatus that permits the gymnast to travel the length of the beam while using the apparatus.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a beam spotting apparatus that is readily portable and can be used in virtually any desired location.

To those ends, a portable beam spotting apparatus is provided which comprises a rigid frame having rectangular lower frame portion adapted to be supported upon the floor, a correspondingly sized and configured rectangular upper frame portion supported above and parallel to the lower frame portion by legs attached at either end to corresponding corners of the lower and upper frame portions and a support assembly operable within the frame. The length of each frame portion is slightly longer than the length of a standard balance beam. The support assembly includes cables that extend from the top of one leg to the top of the other leg on each side of the frame and suspension means operable along the cables. Means are provided for tensioning the cables to maintain an appropriate tension in each cable. The suspension means includes a pulley that operates on each cable along the length of the cable and a spotting strap that is suspended from one end from each of the pulleys. The other end of each spotting strap is attached to a swivel on either side of the spotting belt. The length of the spotting straps is adjustable to accommodate the height of the gymnast. The swivel permits the gymnast to perform flips while using the spotting belt without binding or twisting the spotting straps. In use, the balance beam is placed within the frame such that the balance beam extends centrally along the length of the frame, beneath and parallel to the tensioning cables. As the gymnast moves along the length of the balance beam while practicing routines, the pulleys (and thus the entire suspension means) move along the cables with the gymnast. Because the length of the spotting straps is fixed, there is no need for another person to assist the gymnast by manipulating the ropes and pulleys, as is the case in the prior art devices. Should the gymnast slip off the balance beam, she will be prevented from falling to the floor by the support assembly.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 is an elevational view of a balance beam spotting apparatus according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a fragmented, elevational view of a cable and tensioning means of a balance beam spotting apparatus according to the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a fragmented, elevational view of a pulley and spotting strap operating on a cable of a balance beam spotting apparatus according to the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a fragmented, elevational view of the manner in which the spotting strap is attached to the spotting belt.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring to the drawing, wherein like numerals represent like elements throughout the several views, there is shown a balance beam spotting apparatus generally designated by the numeral 10. Apparatus 10 comprises a rigid frame 11 having a rectangular lower frame portion 12 with spaced, parallel first members 12a and spaced, parallel second members 12b, and a rectangular upper frame portion 13 with spaced, parallel first members 13a and spaced, parallel second members 13b. Upper frame portion 13 is supported above lower frame portion 12 by legs 14 attached between the comers of lower frame portion 12 and upper frame portion 13. The members 12a, 12b, 13a and 13b and legs 14 are preferably made of tubular aluminum having a circular cross section. This gives the frame 11 strength without weight, thereby facilitating the movement of the frame 11 from one location to another without disassembly.

As best seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, the legs 14 are attached to each corresponding corner by means of corner brackets 15, each having female portions extending at right angles to one another to receive an end of a corresponding member 12a and 12b, or 13a and 13b, or leg 14. Once inserted in a bracket 15, the member 12a, 12b, 13a or 13b, or leg 14 is secured in place by a set screw (not shown).

A pair of support members, such as tension cables 16, are each attached to the top of a pair of legs 14 so as to extend slightly beneath each first member 13a of the upper frame portion 13. The cables 16 are sized to withstand the anticipated loads, preferably at least 5/16 inches in diameter. The ends of each cable 16 are attached to collars 17 slidably positionable along the corresponding leg 14 as best seen in FIG. 2. The collars 17 are also preferably made of tubular aluminum and may be fixed to the corresponding leg 14 at any desired position by means of clevis pin 18 inserted through aligned holes in collar 17 and leg 14. An eye 19 is formed on each collar 17. A turnbuckle 20 is attached at one end of the cable 16 and is also attached to the eye 19 of the corresponding collar 17 in any conventional manner, such as links 21. A load binder 22 is attached by conventional means to the other end of each cable 16, oppositely of the turnbuckle 20. The load binder 22 is operable between an open position and a closed position. By adjusting the turnbuckle 20 to the degree necessary and closing the load binder 22, the cable 16 is tensioned to the extent necessary to support the gymnast in the event that she should slip from the balance beam 33.

A follower, such as pulley 23, rides on each cable 16. As best seen in FIG. 3, each pulley 23 includes an outer bracket 24 having side portions 25 and an intermediate portion 26 between side portions 25. A swivel eye 27 extends downwardly from the intermediate portion 26 of each bracket 24. A spotting strap 28 is attached at one end to each swivel eye 27 by means of a releasable first links 29, often called “quick links.” A second releasable swivel link 30 is attached to the opposite end of each spotting strap 28. The second links 30 are adapted to engage eye hooks 31 carried on a spotting belt 32 worn by the gymnast, as best seen in FIG. 4. The spotting straps 28 are preferably comprised of a woven nylon fabric of sufficient strength to withstand the anticipated stresses that will be placed on them. Spotting straps 28 of differing lengths are provided to accommodate gymnasts of different heights.

In use, the balance beam 33 is positioned within the frame 11 such that the balance beam 33 extends along the same direction as cables 16. A set of spotting straps 28 are selected according to the height of the gymnast. The particular set of spotting straps 28 used by any gymnast will be long enough to permit that gymnast to practice the desired routines on and above the balance beam 33, yet short enough to catch the gymnast and prevent him or her from falling to the floor in the event of a fall from the balance beam 33. A spotting belt 32 is secured to the waist of the gymnast, who then mounts the balance beam 33 and attaches the second links 30 of the straps 28 to the eye hooks 31 of the belt 32. If necessary, the vertical position of the cables 16 may be adjusted to the desired height, again depending on the height of the balance beam 33 and the length of the spotting straps 28 being used.

It will be appreciated that if the cables 16 are positioned sufficiently beneath the corresponding frame member 13a, there will be some flex within the corresponding legs 14 when a load is placed on the cables 16 (i.e., when the gymnast falls from the balance beam 33). To correct that situation, in one embodiment of the invention (not shown) stiffening members may be added to the apparatus 10 and positioned slightly above the cables 16 to minimize the amount of such flex. Each stiffening member is advantageously comprised of tubular aluminum and each end of the stiffening member is received in a female member of a separate collar which is slidably positionable along a leg 14 above collar 17. Each separate collar is supported upon the corresponding collar 17. In this matter, the position of each separate collar along each leg 14 is fixed by the location of the corresponding collar 17. The position of the stiffening member is thereby adjustable along with the position of the corresponding cable 16 such that the stiffening member is located slightly above cable 16 to minimize flex in the leg 14.

While I have described the preferred embodiment of my invention, it will be evident to those skilled in the art that other embodiments may be possible within the scope of my invention.